Princess Knight 2

July 17, 2012

Osamu Tezuka – Vertical – 2011 – 2 volumes

I’m late to the party with this, but I should point out that DMP is having a Kickstarter drive to fund a few different early Tezuka series, all meant for children. All three are things I’d love to read, but it looks like they’re going to come up too short to publish the third. If you are at all interested in reading Unico, Atomcat, or Triton of the Sea, head over there and pledge to publish them! Secretly, I’m hoping if they don’t make the Triton goal, they’ll try it again as a separate Kickstarter. But! Maybe they’ll get the last $10,000 in the next few days. Every little bit helps, and Unico and Atomcat are still very much worth reading. Probably.

I would happily devour all three series, and I’m paying ridiculous amounts of money with the hopes of doing so. Having said that, the earlier Tezuka work that I’ve read has been my least favorite. This includes the early sci-fi trilogy, Astro Boy, the early version of Phoenix, and… well, Princess Knight.

Now, one of my absolute favorite Tezuka books is Swallowing the Earth. That book is so batshit crazy I don’t even know where to begin, and that’s one of my favorite things about his series. The thing is, Princess Knight is, too. Except it has a structure and purpose, unlike Swallowing the Earth. So the crazy is all the more puzzling here. It’s trying to tell a story about how Sapphire has both a girl and boy heart, so she can be strong even though she’s a girl. Except when her boy heart gets stolen, she turns into a weak little girl that can’t do anything. They emphasize this. Then it seems like the story forgets that she doesn’t have her boy heart anymore, and then she can fight again. There’s no reference to the fact that she’s not herself, or she might need both, or doesn’t need the boy heart to be strong. She simply needs it at first, and then after awhile, doesn’t need it anymore.

At one point, Sapphire gets fatally wounded with an arrow. For some reason, the story veers off here, and Captain Blood has to make a mad dash to an island to get a special balm that heals arrow wounds. There he’s held captive by a race of women who enslave him and his crew. Captain Blood escapes with the balm, but nothing about his enslaved crew is ever mentioned again. The balm is used, Sapphire gets better, then both Captain Blood and the balm are forgotten once again, as if this never happened. Stranger still, Captain Blood is revealed to Be Somebody, and he exits the story without any of the relevant characters finding this out. Uh.

There’s… a witch wedding. An entire kingdom is turned to stone. The fact that the only way to turn the people back is by spilling the blood of true love is heavily alluded to, then a lengthy story line completely forgets/avoids this. The wedding involves the king of hell, prankster demons, and lots of page-to-page WTF-ery. Literally, this wedding makes no sense. It’s one of my favorite things about the series, but seriously. Wow.

The ending to the series is spectacular. After going through villains and characters like some characters change clothes in other series (most villains meeting with bizarre, unlooked-for deaths), the final villain is the Goddess of Love. This section is somehow worse than the wedding in terms of completely random insanity. Then it just… stops. Venus is dealt with, the characters ask aloud about one other loose end, which is answered, nothing is done about Venus’s kind servant who was literally brought down one page before that, and then the series ends.

Seriously. This is some full-out insanity. Again, I’m a big fan of insanity, but this is also clearly supposed to be a fairy tale, and following some rules. And… uh, it sort of does. And then it does its own thing. It’s clearly highly inspired by Disney and classic western fairy tales, but it also kinda reads like someone described these things to Tezuka, and then Tezuka interpreted them without having seen or read them. I enjoy things like that immensely, so that’s not exactly derogatory, but that was also not the case here.

The bigger problem for me is not the crazy, but that it lingered too long on certain things. The plots with the evil witch just kept going. And going. And going. Some of the subplots were a bit repetitive. Prince Franz Charming was hanging around a lot, often going after Sapphire after having her snatched away at the last minute. It’s a bit of a chore to read, even with all the crazy. I imagine the crazy putting some people off even more.

Women’s roles in this book are strange. I mentioned the part about Sapphire’s boy and girl heart, but there are other things, too. There’s a women’s revolt, where the women of Silverland revolt against the men and their unfair treatment of Sapphire. The threat of the women rebelling is seen not in how they fight, which is with brooms and whatnot, but rather in that they do all the cooking and cleaning. When it’s over, one of the soldiers comments that the laundry was piling up. While there is a law in Silverland that lets women ascend to the throne as a result of the revolt, they are still obviously not the equal of men.

And while Sapphire needs her boy heart in order to not be a total waschlappen, there are other strong female characters. There’s Hecate, the spunky daughter of the evil witch that always does what she feels is right and has it in her to thwart anybody. She’s a tomboy, but not a literal “boy” in the sense that Sapphire is. There’s also an entire island of scary women that enslave pirates. And yet, Sapphire struggles on. I was puzzled by this.

Honestly? I’m not the biggest fan of these books. Language issues and the fact that they are really slow and/or crazy make them not exactly suitable for the intended young audience, either. And if you’re an adult, there are better things to read by Tezuka. Sapphire is a classic character, and Princess Knight is definitely one of Tezuka’s signature series… but seriously, pick up Black Jack or Ode to Kirihito or pretty much anything else first. It’s not bad, and I was entertained, but I would say this is not for most people.

One Response to “Princess Knight 2”

  1. meronichan Says:

    I’m with you on this one. Princess Knight,…I wanted to much to like it a lot. And I did like it, if solely for the fact that it was so weird, and Tezuka never goes in the direction you think he’s gonna go with his stories. It’s like you’re riding the crazy waves and there’s no stopping it. I think what bothered me the most is that even though Sapphire is supposed to have a boy heart and a girl heart, she was way more feminine than masculine even when she shared them both equally. I think there were maybe one or two times she stepped up to the plate, but her feminine side was definitely the winner (I suppose, since she just wanted to be a girl 100% anyway,…). Hecate was more masculine, and she had a normal heart (demon heart, I guess? Full of mischief? I don’t know). And I was disappointed that Tezuka introduced Cpt. Blood, and then killed him off so quick. We all kind of expect Sapphire and Blood to hook up, but like I said, Tezuka never does what you expect. Kind of sad.
    Apparently there’s a sequel where Sapphire has two children and there’s some adventure with them, idk.

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